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Small victories, large defeats.



Updated: 2018-02-16T12:00:02-05:00

 



New Phillies outfield will make past versions look even worse

2018-02-16T12:00:02-05:00

Gone are the days of Cedric, Sizemore and Nava. All hail the mighty quartet of Hoskins, Herrera, Williams and Altherr! 2012: John Mayberry, Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence2013: Domonic Brown, Ben Revere, John Mayberry2014: Tony Gwynn, Jr., Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd2015: Ben Revere, Odubel Herrera, Grady Sizemore2016: Cedric Hunter, Odubel Herrera, Peter Bourjos2017: Howie Kendrick, Odubel Herrera, Michael Saunders These are the Opening Day outfield alignments that were trotted out by Charlie Manuel, Ryne Sandberg, and Pete Mackanin for the last six years. To say it was bad is kind of an understatement. Here are the bWAR totals for each player during these seasons: Am I cheating here? Absolutely, since these totals do not include any other players other than the ones that were written on the Opening Day lineup card. If you get past that, believe me, the situation doesn’t improve much. However, if you want to get technical, the total bWAR for outfielders who played the positions the majority of the time as starters equaled 17.7. If you want to get really, REALLY technical, according to Fangraphs, the Phillies outfield has accumulated 18.2 WAR during this time period, far and away the worst total. Like I said, wasn’t much better. The point is plainly clear: the outfield situation has been catastrophically bad the past six years. The situation has only been saved somewhat because the front office was able to find a diamond in the Rule 5 rough in Odubel Herrera. In fact, if you were to take out Herrera’s numbers, the players that the Phillies have deemed “Opening Day worthy” have produced 7.7 bWAR since 2012. Seven. Point. Seven. Simply by default, this year’s iteration of the outfield has to be better simply because they are better. Any one of the players that projects to be regulars are better than any option the team has used since 2012. Of course, heading in to the offseason, it looked like the alignment was pretty much set. Yet as we all know already, with the free agent signing of Carlos Santana to man first base, Babe Ruth Rhys Hoskins will shift to left field, which does create something of a fight for playing time among him, Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams and Aaron Altherr. If we’re all being realists though, it really only means that one of Williams or Altherr will be on the bench as neither Hoskins’ nor Herrera’s bat will be leaving the lineup with any kind of regularity. This may seem a little harsh, but consider: Aaron Altherr has yet to be healthy for a full season. While he was incredibly hot last year when given the chance to play regularly (from April 16 through August 4, he had an .892 OPS), he did miss more than a month with a hamstring injury toward the end of the season. This after missing most of 2016 with a wrist injury that he suffered prior to the season starting. While Nick Williams was good last year (343 plate appearances is a pretty decent sample size), there are still things he needs to work on. His 5.8 BB%, 28.3 K% and .375 BABIP all suggest that at least some of the numbers he put up were more luck than anything. If he is unable to control the strike zone better, he might find himself on the short end of the platoon more often than not. Of course, this all references only the offense. Defensively, this outfield will not be as good as it was at the end of the season. With Williams, Herrera and Altherr receiving the bulk of playing time, fly balls had very little space to fall. Herrera ranked just in the top half of all full time centerfielders in DRS (+4) while Altherr was just a tic below in right (-1). Williams’ numbers are skewed by his wretched showing in right field, something he will have to improve on since Hoskins will be taking over left field. While Hoskins didn’t light the world on fire with the leather, he also didn’t embarrass himself there either (-1 DRS in 237 innings). The athleticism Hoskins showed in being able to pick up left field as quickly as he did portends some good things heading into the season. Depending on your projection of choice, t[...]



Did the Phillies misread the starting pitching market?

2018-02-16T07:30:02-05:00

On Episode 176 of The Felske Files, host John Stolnis wonders if the Phils were planning on making a trade that never materialized. Over the first few days of spring training in Clearwater, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak and manager Gabe Kapler both have spoken glowingly about the 2018 Phillies, indicating a playoff run this season is no longer “a pipe dream.” They’re not wrong. The recent PECOTA projections puts the Phillies at 78 wins this season, about 6 or 7 wins behind the teams they project to win the NL wild card spots. As Klentak and Kapler have noted in recent days, if a few players take a “step forward” this year, postseason baseball could be in the cards for the ‘18 Phils. You’ve got to love that spirit, and it makes complete sense for both men to pump up this team publicly. It’s what you do at the beginning of spring training. And yes, there is a lot of talent on this roster, especially in the lineup and bullpen. But as has been discussed ad naseum in this space and on the Felske Files podcast in recent weeks, the team needs another decent starting pitcher for them to realistically be contenders for a postseason birth. Aaron Nola is the only dependable starter at the moment, and while Jerad Eickhoff and Vince Velasquez have flashed the ability to be rotation solutions, both are huge question marks. Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Mark Leiter, Jr., Zach Eflin, Jake Thompson and Thomas Eshelman all have the potential to be back-of-the-rotation starters, but are enigmas themselves. So while Klentak told reporters on Thursday that he would be “open” to adding another starting pitcher, he stressed that they are going to “remain patient” and not do anything to damage the hard work of the rebuild. “I wouldn’t say I expect to [sign a starter],” Klentak told reporters. “We’re very open to it and I’ve been on the phone a lot. If there’s something that makes sense, I know the owners will support it economically. It’s up to us to bring that to them if we see fit. And if we don’t, as I’ve said earlier, we’re very not only comfortable, but we’re excited about the group we have here.” It’s plain to see they don’t want to give Jake Arrieta what he’s asking for in free agency (whatever that is). They’d almost certainly be willing to do a high annual average salary deal for three years, but they are desperate not to have a contract on the books that will be dead weight in 2021, 2022, 2023 and beyond. Klentak has said numerous times he wants this team to be playing October baseball for the next 10 years, not just one year. And that makes sense. That’s a great vision to have. But please don’t punt on 2018 while you’re at it. The Phillies signed Carlos Santana this off-season, an indication to me that they felt their window of opportunity had opened now. I believe they made that move thinking they could trade from their surplus of outfielders, possibly add Cesar Hernandez in a deal and move some of their B-level prospects and obtain a young, controllable starting pitcher. In this way, they may have misread the market. Teams don’t appear to be interested in Aaron Altherr or Nick Williams as one of the lead pieces to a deal. Hernandez, as good as he is, is not generating enough interest for the Phillies to get a pitcher for him. And teams seem to only want to talk to the Phillies about the untouchable Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery in exchange for a starter. The Phils never wanted to be players in free agency because free agency, by its very nature, generally requires a team to sign players to deals that will ultimately be a drag on the club’s bottom line three or four years down the road. No one wants to have a contract on the books that is dead weight, but in this way, the Phillies have an advantage that other teams do not. According to Cot’s Contracts, the team is projected to have the second-lowest payroll in baseball this season, at $84 million. That would leave them around $112 million under the $197 million luxury [...]



2018 Phillies Preview

2018-02-15T11:31:29-05:00

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It’s time to stop lamenting the performances and narratives of last season and start making presumptions about the performances and narratives of this season!

We’ve done it. We’ve crossed the threshold. No longer must we issue report cards and update scouting reports; now, we can transcribe press conferences and consult data projections. It’s that special time of year in Phillies baseball when we don’t even know what we’re mad about yet.

Join The Good Phight for a prolific coverage of the Phillies as they mount this year’s campaign in Clearwater with new players, new coaches, a new manager, and a whole new set of expectations.




Is Rhys Hoskins homering yet?

2018-02-15T11:21:31-05:00

There’s always a big difference between being called the future and becoming it. It’s easy to get a little excited talking about any team in spring training. It’s also easy to get a little ahead of yourself when you’re talking about Rhys Hoskins. But in Hoskins’ case specifically, it seems like it’s been very easy for many people to get very excited and rush very far ahead of themselves; rushing into a future in which Hoskins isn’t just a successful, slugging, everyday left fielder for the Phillies, but one with a championship ring. Hoskins had been working out with some defending World Series champion Astros in San Diego over the winter, giving the media the chance to ask questions along the lines of, “What’s it like being around those guys? What cloud are they on? Is it a feeling you all chase?” “It’s good to be around those guys,’’ Hoskins said during a media availability Tuesday in Philadelphia. “They’re just on cloud nine talking about it. It’s a feeling we all chase.’’ Somebody got him into the Super Bowl, too, so they could get championship-hungry quotes from the “Philly” angle. “Not that I wasn’t hungry before, but if that doesn’t fire you up and motivate you to be on the other side -- not as a fan, but as an athlete -- I don’t know what does.” What young player, when asked about their championship fantasies, wouldn’t respond with some measure of “Yeah, it seems good. I want that.” It’s noteworthy not because of Hoskins’ answers—though he seems a natural at handling press inquiries, even the ones that are asked just to fill column space—but because it is indicative of the attitude toward Hoskins after just two months in Major League Baseball: We know you’re good. So where are you going to take us? Everybody’s a little hot and bothered about winning in Philadelphia, now that sports teams have done it twice in one decade. But even without that ludicrous culmination of fate, luck, and brawn that happened on the other side of Pattison Avenue, the Phillies were said to be on the bounce back. Hoskins was put at the center of it—that’s why it’s him they’re asking how many bottles of trophy polish to order—and in 2018, he’ll begin, fairly or unfairly, his journey as the reason it lives or dies. It’s an even greater responsibility to put on the shoulders of a 24-year-old who is undergoing a positional shift with only a 50-game MLB career behind him. But he’s become the face of the franchise, the presumed engine of the offense, and in his manager’s own words, a guy with the “capability to be a leader immediately in this clubhouse.” And who’s fault is that? His, obviously. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/C5OFwSq-3Ls?rel=0&" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> “Un-be-Rhys-able!” Ben Davis said this past season, coining the sole Rhys-related pun that did not become a t-shirt in 2017. If Rhys Hoskins weren’t so dang good at hitting baseballs, or at answering questions about his new key role as the Phillies’ young slugger, or at showing up at PR events as the team parades their future around town letting people get attached to him, people wouldn’t be jumping ahead from spring training, over the regular season, and years into the future, when he’s hoisting the World Series trophy over his head with J.P. Crawford, Aaron Nola, and Mike Trout. But he had to go and make baseball history, letting those expectations get ratcheted up to unsustainable levels, and now we’re all going to have to just sit here and enjoy it as he crushes a breaking pitch with runners on base. Darn. He’s the only player to hit more than 13 home runs after being called up on August 1 (He hit 18, casually dethroning Ted Williams), and he’s probably the fastest slugger to homer off the same pitcher three times (Poor Dan Straily had to face Hoskins at the alarming sta[...]



The Leadoff, Vol. 5: The Logical Journey of the New Phillies

2018-02-14T09:00:01-05:00

In which I gleefully compare baseball players to cartoon characters from a 25-year-old computer game Pitchers and catchers have reported! Wowowowowowow we did it, everyone! Now, for a month-and-a-half of exhibition baseball action before the games that count! We still haven’t had a new addition to the pitching staff over the past few weeks. In fact, the only real roster movement was the retirement announcement of non-roster invitee catcher Eric Fryer. Yu Darvish signed with the Cubs, but lots of other starting pitching options are still unsigned, and no one has any idea if the Phillies will actually make another significant move! This winter was great, really. As always, shoot your questions over to us on Twitter, or by dropping a line to our inbox at TheGoodPhightTV@gmail. How closely do you think the core of Crawford, Kingery, Hoskins, and Nola resemble Rollins, Utley, Howard, and Hamels? (Kingery obviously just MLB projections and minor league stats) You can throw in Alfaro to Ruiz too— Ed McLaughlin (@ej_mclaughl) February 12, 2018 Halladay’s No. 32 will join Roberto Alomar’s No. 12 as the only Blue Jays numbers to be retired when the ceremony takes place before their home opener against New York Yankees on March 29. So, from a Phillies perspective, the question is obvious. Should the Phils do the same? The Pros: In 2010 and 2011, Halladay’s first two seasons with the Phillies, he was the best pitcher in baseball. He went 21-10 in 2010 with a 2.44 ERA, nine complete games, four shutouts, led the NL with 250.2 innings pitched, had a league-best 7.30 K-BB per nine ratio and won the Cy Young Award. Oh, and he threw a perfect game against the Marlins and baseball’s second-ever postseason no-hitter. src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0at6xinD1As?rel=0&" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> In 2011 he was excellent again, with an even better ERA (2.35), eight more complete games and an NL-best FIP of 2.20. He finished second in the Cy Young race to Clayton Kershaw that year, but fronted one of the greatest starting rotations in baseball history. His time in Philadelphia was short, but loaded with incredible moments that will live forever in the franchise’s long history. The Cons: While Halladay’s first two seasons with the Phils were incredible, it was only two seasons of excellence. Following his heroic 1-0 loss to Chris Carpenter in Game 5 of the 2011 NLDS, Halladay was never the same pitcher again. He went 11-8 with a 4.49 ERA in 25 starts for the 2012 Phils. His numbers dropped across the board and he dealt with injuries for the first time since 2005. Then in 2013, he cratered, lasting just 13 starts with an ERA of 6.82 and a FIP of 6.14 before finally calling it a career at age 36. Halladay spent four seasons with the Phillies, but only two of them were good. Team Policy: Just five numbers have been retired since the Phillies began play in 1883. Five jerseys in 134 years. That’s no accident. The team doesn’t like retiring jersey numbers unless players have reached the Hall of Fame. So far, only Richie Ashburn’s No. 1, Jim Bunning’s No. 14, Mike Schmidt’s No. 20, Steve Carlton’s No. 32 and Robin Roberts’ No. 36 have been immortalized in this way. Now, Halladay will likely be joining that group in Cooperstown, and it could happen as soon as next year, his first year of eligibility on the ballot. But does Halladay deserve to have his number retired before/instead of other Phils greats like Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Darren Daulton, Richie Allen, Curt Schilling (I know, guys, I know), Greg Luzinski, and others? Halladay had a great two-year run with the Phillies, and a spot on the Wall of Fame is assured. Maybe that Wall of Fame spot happens this year, in light of the tragedy. But it makes more sense for Toronto to retire Halladay’s than the Phillies, seeing as how he spent 12 ye[...]